This week we’re driving the 2015 Toyota Yaris hatchback, a low priced sub-compact that comes in either L, LE or SE dress. Be it a two-door or four-door, the most noticeable change for ’15 is an all-new front treatment featuring a large “twin-grille” up front coupled with an enhanced tail design with re-shaped taillights and bumper. The end result is an aesthetically appealing little hatchback that fits in wherever one might go.
Along with an excellent Consumer Reports reliability rating, Yaris competes with some stiff competition, amongst them Ford Fiesta, Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Chevy Spark, Mazda2 and Kia Rio (to name a few). Not counting a few suspension upgrades, Yaris for 2015 is identical mechanically to the 2014 model.
Power comes from Toyota’s trusty 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. This engine has been around powering the Yaris since 2008, which is both good and bad depending how you judge a vehicle’s mechanical evolution.
Our tester came in upper SE trim with the five-speed manual which I recommend over the dated four-speed automatic. Most competitors offer more advanced automatics from CVT to six-speed. Still, Toyota sticks with the four-speed automatic which indeed delivers decent 30 city and 37 highway MPG numbers yet won’t perform as “nice” as a multi-speed automatic. Granted, Yaris delivers fine MPG numbers, but most competitors offer better fuel economy which makes Toyota’s out-of-date automatic a potential “deal breaker” to consumers who demand the most.
Pricing, however, is excellent. The entry two-door L hatchback with a manual transmission costs only $14,845, or $15,945 for the four door. The automatics are about $800 more. Yaris LE two-door starts at $16,505 while LE four-doors start at $16,880. Our tester’s base is $16,820, while an automatic SE will base at $17,620. If you can get by with a two-door and a manual tranny, Test Drive recommends the base L at $14,845 as a Yaris best buy.
On the safety end, Yaris is strong and sturdy. Toyota’s noted Star Safety System features a cocoon like nine airbag occupant safety setup and then adds brake assist, traction control, disc/drum ABS brakes, air, and even Smart Stop technology. What’s noticeably missing is a rear safety camera, something this scribe has gotten used to the last few years and I’m sad to report this feature is not available on any Yaris. If you want one, it’s time to consider a compact Toyota Corolla for $19,990 where it comes standard. (Corolla’s automatic is a seven-speed for $22,240).
The aforementioned 1.5-liter four-cylinder delivers 106 horses and 103 lb. ft. of torque. These may not be big numbers compared to other cars on the road, yet when coupled to a lightweight sub-compact and the manual transmission, our Yaris proved both peppy under acceleration and fun to drive.
Our SE is the sporty Yaris, featuring special 16-inch machined alloy chrome black wheels and sport tuned suspension. Available only as a four-door, SE receives special treatment like LED/projector headlights, rear-defogger, four-wheel ABS disc brakes, upgraded cloth seating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The interior is similar to last year, which means it’s all business. New is a padded area instead of plastic, and other areas features more sound deadening applications. If you happen to be the passenger that sits in the backseat, you’ll be surprised by both the legroom and headroom, as even six-foot tall passengers will have no problems. The drawback to more rear legroom is less cargo space, where Yaris trails competitors in cubic feet available.
The Yaris sound system receives a thumbs up, as occupants will enjoy Toyota’s six-speaker Entune stereo with a 5.1-inch audio interface. I like the radio turn dials that help find stations “the old way” versus 100-percent touch systems which all prove cumbersome and take the driver’s eyes off the road. Included is CD, HD radio, USB, iPod and Bluetooth with voice recognition. Our model did not have Sirius/XM, but the radio is “Satellite ready.” Our model also came with an $899 Navigation system which is unnecessary.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 98.8-inches, 2,315 lb. curb weight, 36.1 ft. turn radius, 11.1 gallon fuel cell and 15.3 cu. ft. of cargo space.
Overall, and although Yaris is Toyota’s entry model, it’s time to update the mechanicals and add the rear backup camera for safety’s sake.
2015 Toyota Yaris
Entry Price: $14,845
Price as tested: $18,824
Good fuel mileage
Heated seats not available
(Greg Zyla writes weekly for BestRide.com and other GateHouse Media publications.)